Skin (short story)

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"Skin" is a macabre short story written by author Roald Dahl. It was first published in the May 17, 1952 issue of The New Yorker,[1] and was later featured in the collection Skin and Other Stories, published in 2000. It was adapted for television as part of Anglia Television's Tales of the Unexpected, broadcast in March 8, 1980.

Plot summary[edit]

An old man named Drioli walks through the losers streets of Paris. When he passes by an art gallery and sees a painting by Chaim Soutine, he reminisces about a time long-ago when they were friends. Over thirty years earlier, Soutine had been in love with Drioli's wife Josie, and on a particular day in autumn 1913, Drioli, a tattoo artist, had to work on nine clients, most of whom had paid in cash. This resulted in unusually large earnings for that day, and he had decided to celebrate by buying three bottles of wine. When he had become drunk, Drioli asked Soutine to paint a picture of Josie on Drioli's back and then tattoo over it, which Soutine agreed to. After the First World War, Soutine was discovered by a dealer and sent to Céret, and Drioli and Josie moved their tattoo business to Le Havre. During the Second World War, Josie died and Drioli lost his business, being forced into panhandling.

Drioli enters the art gallery, and shows the crowd his incredible tattoo. Several people make bids for it, also inquiring after Drioli's health because the picture actually does not have any value as long as he is alive. Two men in particular offer unusual proposals. One says he will pay for a skin-grafting operation so that the artwork may be removed from Drioli's back, and that he will also pay for the artwork thus obtained; other patrons warn that Drioli would never survive the surgery. The other man, claiming to be the owner of the Bristol Hotel in Cannes, asks Drioli to become an employee of the hotel and to live a life of luxury while exhibiting his back to the guests, somewhat like a model. Drioli, who is hungry, accepts the latter's proposal and leaves the gallery with him.

The narrator then explains that there is no Bristol Hotel in Cannes, and that a heavily varnished painting matching the description of Drioli's tattoo turned up for sale at an auction in Buenos Aires a few weeks later, and that this "causes one to wonder a little, and to pray for the old man's health, and to hope fervently that wherever he may be at this moment, there is a plump attractive girl to manicure the nails of his fingers, and a maid to bring him breakfast in bed in the mornings".


Groff Conklin in 1954 called the story "a hair-curling slice of macabre".[2]


  1. ^ Roald Dahl (17 May 1952). "Skin". The New Yorker. p. 31. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
  2. ^ Conklin, Groff (May 1954). "Galaxy's 5 Star Shelf". Galaxy Science Fiction. pp. 129–133.